A HISTORY OF FORTS RANDOLPH AND BLAIR AT POINT PLEASANT
The first recorded fort at Point Pleasant is written in the History 0f Mason County West Virginia page 3, Hardesty’s Historical and Encyclopedia 1883.
We here subjoin the account as witnessed and given by a prisoner who escaped from the Indians and reached General Andrew Lewis’ camp on the evening before the Battle of Point Pleasant, October 10, 1774, “on the 10th of October 1774 about sunrise, the hunters (spies) came in at full speed, and gave the appalling information that a large body of Indians had spread themselves from river to river and were advancing by slow degrees toward the FORT (camp): at the same instant we could observe the women and boys sulking up and down the opposite banks of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers.”
This first fort stood on the apex of the upper angle formed by the confluence of the great Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, it was built in October arid November of 1774 and named Fort Blair after John Blair, by Captain William Russell who was both the designer and builder. Captain Russell evacuated the Fort in June 1775, after those who were wounded in the battle had fully recovered. The garrison was removed by Lord Dunmore, the Colonial Governor of the British Colony of Virginia. A Short time later the fort was set afire by the Indians.
As the stockade was the only place of safety for the brave pioneers who were dwelling on the frontier during those days of savage warfare. Captain Mathew Arbuckle and a company of men were sent from Fort Pitt by General Hand, in 1776, to Point Pleasant to build another fort, here they reared Fort Randolph, a larger fort than fort Blair, a few rods farther up the Ohio River from the point.
This fort was garrisoned with one hundred men and left in the command of Captain Arbuckle. Fort Randolph was named for Peyton Randolph, a Virginia aristocrat who was unanimously elected as President of the First Continental Congress on September 4th 1774. It was at this fort that the murder of Chief Cornstalk, his son Elinipsico and Red Hawk occurred in 1777. Fort Randolph served to guard the “backdoor” of Virginia and was garrisoned throughout the American Revolution.
In May 1778 a force of 200 Indians appeared before the fort but as the garrison had been very much reduced by the removal of Captain Arbuckle’s company, and the experience of the last season had taught them prudence, Captain McKee forbore to detach any of his men in pursuit of them. Disappointed in their expectations of enticing others to destruction, as they had Lieutenant Moore in the winter. The Indians suddenly rose from their convert, presented an unbroken line extending from the Ohio to the Kanawha River and in front of the fort, A demand for surrender of the garrison was then made and Captain McKee asked till morning to consider it. In the course of the night the men were busily employed in bringing in water from the river, expecting that the Indians would continue before the fort for some time.
In the morning, Captain McKee sent his answer by the Grenadier Squaw (Sister of Cornstalk, and who, not with standing the murder of her brother and nephew, was still attached to the whites.., and was remaining at the fort in the capacity of interpreter.) that he could not comply with their demand. The Indians immediately began the attack, and for one week kept the garrison closely besieged, finding however, that they made no impression on the fort they collected the cattle about it, and instead of returning toward their own country with their plunder, proceeded up the Kanawha River towards the Greenbrier Settlement.
For some unknown reason, the fort was evacuated in 1779 and was burned by the Indians.
Probably in 1780, another fort was erected for the protection of the inhabitants during the Indian Wars. It was built on the Ohio River bank, Fifty rods above it predecessors. Colonel Thomas Lewis was in charge.
In May 1781, a party of eighteen whites were attacked by about thirty Indians at a point on the Ohio river about one mile north of the fort at Point Pleasant The whites were defeated. Michael See and Robert Sinclair were killed and Thomas Northup Hampton and a black boy belonging to Michael See were borne off prisoners, William See, son of Michael See, was born in the fort the same evening that his father was killed. The black boy never returned, he became a chief and took part with the friendly Indians against the British during the War of 1812- 1814.
We know that Fort Randolph still existed in 1792. For there residing within the fort at Point Pleasant a family of the name of Tyler, in which there were two young ladies. It was customary at that time to put bells upon the cows and to permit them to graze without the stockade, into which however they were driven at night. One evening in the autumn of the year, these ladies left the fort for the purpose of driving in the cows. Hearing the bells on the hill near the fort they proceeded in the direction from which the sound came. On reaching the top of the hill several Indians, who had taken the bells from the cows and were using them as decoys, rushed upon the ladies and made them prisoners. Having cut the skirts from their dresses that they might travel the more rapidly, they at once began the long and tedious journey to Detroit where shortly after their arrival the younger died of a broken heart. The elder lady remained a prisoner until after Wayne’s treaty in 1795, when she was married to a French trader in Canada, after which she returned to Point Pleasant and spent six months with her friends, then bidding a final ad-eiu she departed to again join her husband who awaited her in Detroit. She died at and advanced age in Montreal.
Another account as written in “HISTORY of KANAWHA COUNTY” 1876. A fort was erected at Point Pleasant just after the battle, at the mouth of the Kanawha. It was a rectangular stockade, about eighty yards long, with blockhouses at two of its corners. It was finally destroyed, and a smaller one erected about fifty rods further up the Ohio, on the site of the store of James Capehart. It was composed of a circle of cabins, in which the settlers lived. No vestige of it now remains.